Screening for depression risk using the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) in an older community dwelling outpatient population

Ms Nalini Natesan1, Ms Nicole Austin1, Ms Katie Hjorth2

1Alfred Health, Caulfield, Australia, 2Monash Health, Clayton, Australia


Caulfield Community Health Service (CCHS) provides services to people living in the community with a long-term physical illness who therefore may be at risk of depression. One method of identifying undiagnosed depression in older adults is through depression screening. Currently, there is no standard protocol for screening depression risk within CCHS.


  • To identify the proportion of community based clients who screened positive for depression using the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale
  • To identify the relationship between depression screening, demographics and health / medical conditions
  • To determine the level of follow up/interventions, 3 months after screening as a result of positive depression screening


Community based CCHS podiatry clients aged 65 years and older completed the self-administered 15-item GDS. Following the results of the GDS, a letter was sent to the clients GP. For clients who screened positive, a phone call was made 3 months after screening to see if they received follow up services/interventions.


From the 98 clients that were screened using the GDS, 16.3% screened positive for depressive symptoms. No significant relationship was identified between positive depression screening and demographics and health/medical. The 87.5% of clients who screened positive did not receive any follow up or interventions that they were not already receiving.


Administering a depression screening tool requires time and resources and this study found little or no benefit to community clients. We would be cautious in implementing a depression screening tool within Caulfield Community Health Service. Further work is required to ensure follow up by external services in patients identified at risk of depression.

Significance of the findings to allied health:

Allied health need to be aware of depression risk in older population groups.